On February 4, we reported that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was continuing to suggest that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was "conducting airstrikes" in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIL) despite an apparent suspension of flights by that country since late December. After a Jordanian aircraft was shot down and the pilot captured (and subsequently executed) by ISIL, the UAE reportedly grounded its planes over concerns about coalition search-and-rescue capabilities. Although CENTCOM refused to confirm the suspension, saying "that question is best addressed by the UAE," the very next day CENTCOM changed the wording in the daily press releases from "nations conducting airstrikes" to "nations which have conducted airstrikes."
Here's the press release from February 4:
Here's the release from February 5, the day after our report was published:
The change was noted by Tom Bowman on National Public Radio on February 6 in the following exchange with host Robert Siegel:
SIEGEL: Now, we've learned that at least one of those countries, the United Arab Emirates, stopped flying in December. Did the U.S. still claim that the country's pilots were flying?
BOWMAN: Yes, and they were misleading. Those press releases I mentioned listed the coalition countries, saying they were, quote, "conducting airstrikes." Now, just a couple of days ago, after reports that the UAE had pulled out in December, Centcom changed the language, saying these countries, quote, "have conducted airstrikes."
The new wording has been maintained up through the most recent release on February 9. CENTCOM did not respond to an earlier inquiry about how long a nation would have to suspend participation in airstrikes before they would be dropped from the press releases, but now that the wording has been changed, presumably a nation's lack of participation would not necessarily be noted.
A CENTCOM spokesperson did confirm that since a Jordanian pilot was shot down on December 24, all coalition aircraft have returned to base safely. The December 24 report had appropriately dropped the words "All aircraft returned to base safely," but that sentence was not added back until the January 10 release. CENTCOM said the absence of that sentence during the interim was simply an oversight.